The author changes his venue from France (The Pan's Puzzle, 1982) to L.A. with this sympathetic chronicle of rapist Geraldo O'Farrell, a.k.a. Ion Farrell, warped product of an abandoning, idealized father, long-dead prostitute mother and a series of mostly uncaring foster homes. Farrell makes his living as a ""mechanical man,"" hired out for store openings, parties, etc. His expert use of wigs and contact lenses makes identification by his victims almost impossible, and the job of L.A.P.D.'s Special Inspector Victor Lolo an exercise in frustration. It's also clouding Lolo's affair with Frenchwoman Morita Rouvray--an unlikely combo of courtesan and capitalist--who wants to marry him and put him in charge of her family's California vineyards (shades of Dynasty). In the meantime, Farrell's attack on his eighth victim turns him into a murderer, and all Lolo's efforts to find him are useless. . .until the only unforced sexual encounter in Farrell's life proves to be his undoing. The author succeeds in making Farrell an object of pity as well as scorn, despite padding, psychobabble and a style that's sometimes purple, sometimes pulp. A moderately absorbing try at something different.